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§ 51. The Relative Strength of the Confessions in Switzerland.


We may briefly sum up the result of the Reformation in Switzerland as follows: —

Seven Cantons—Luzern, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Zug, Freiburg, and Soluthurn (Soleur)—remained firm to the faith of their ancestors. Four Cantons, including the two strongest—Zürich, Bern, Basel, and Schaffhausen—adopted the Reformed faith. Five Cantons—Glarus, St. Gall, Appenzell, Thurgau, and Aargau—are nearly equally divided between the two Confessions. Of the twenty-three subject towns and districts, only Morat and Granson became wholly Protestant, sixteen retained their former religion, and five were divided. In the Grisons nearly two-thirds of the population adopted the Zwinglian Reformation; but the Protestant gains in the Valtellina and Chiavenna were lost in the seventeenth century. Ticino and Wallis are Roman Catholic. In the French Cantons—Geneva, Canton de Vaud, and Neuchatel—the Reformation achieved a complete victory, chiefly through the labors of Calvin.

Since the middle of the sixteenth century the numerical relation of the two Churches has undergone no material change. Protestantism has still a majority of about half a million in a population of less than three millions. The Roman Catholic Church has considerably increased by immigration from Savoy and France, but has suffered some loss by the Old Catholic secession in 1870 under the lead of Bishop Herzog. The Methodists and Baptists are making progress chiefly in those parts where infidelity and indifferentism reign.

Each Canton still retains its connection with one or the other of the two Churches, and has its own church establishment; but the bond of union has been gradually relaxed, and religious liberty extended to dissenting communions, as Methodists, Baptists, Irvingites, and Old Catholics. The former exclusiveness is abolished, and the principle of parity or equality before the law is acknowledged in all the Cantons.

An impartial comparison between the Roman Catholic and the Reformed Cantons reveals the same difference as exists between Southern and Northern Ireland, Eastern and Western Canada, and other parts of the world where the two Churches meet in close proximity. The Roman Catholic Cantons have preserved more historical faith and superstition, churchly habits and customs; the Protestant Cantons surpass them in general education and intelligence, wealth and temporal prosperity; while in point of morality both are nearly equal.


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